Hidden Spain lies in the mountains and valleys in the hinterland behind the crowded coastline.
To find Hidden Spain
we’ll be staying in Tàrbena. Situated at an altitude of 560 m and with a population of around 600 It is typical of the small farming communities that dot the valleys and sierras in the Costa Blanca Mountains. The mainstay of the economy is agriculture and livestock, the narrow terraces cut into the steep slopes exploit every square meter of cultivable land. They are planted with traditional Mediterranean crops like almonds, olives, figs, carobs, apricots, cherries and grapes.
Wherever a reliable source of water is found the terraces are set aside to grow vegetables. In the dry summers irrigation is indispensable and these terraces appear as deep green patches in the landscape. On closer inspection you will see abundant crops of potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, runner beans and cucumbers. Many of these are local varieties grown from seed passed down from generation to generation. The irrigation systems we see today were created by the Moors over 1000 years ago – citerns, drinking troughs, sluices and irrigation channels – and have conserved their original layout, a testament to their hydrological ingenuity and farming skills. One of the joys of discovering Hidden Spain is finding the archaeological traces left by the previous inhabitants of the area.
The altitude here guarantees plentiful winter rainfall which in turn supplies the abundant springs in the area with a reliable water source, in the village alone there are five springs and many more in the Tàrbena valley, allowing the Tàrbena Valley to support a peak population of 1,700 people in 1857.
The rugged terrain means that there is a huge diversity of ecosystems and landscapes in a relatively small area. The neighboring villages of Bolulla, Castells de Castells and Jalon set the boundaries to the Hidden Spain walking area and include every type of terrain. Valleys where vineyards predominate, like the Jalon Valley in the photo above, or the narrow valleys of Bolulla where citrus crops jostle for room on crowded terraces and the groves of almonds and olives found between Tàrbena and Castells de Castells.
The first written references to Tàrbena go back to the 11th century but has almost certainly been a settlement for much longer, the name “Tárbena” is of Iberian origin. The Iberians were the Bronze Age inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula and the village has a strategic importance, controlling north-south access over the mountainous spine that divides the Marina Alta and the Marina Baja. Before the main coast road was built in the 1920’s the principal ‘road’ from north to south was the footpath that passed through Tàrbena and ascends to the pass at Col de Rates.
Walking around Tàrbena takes you back into a Hidden Spain that has sustained rural life for centuries. Traverse ancient footpaths amongst the intricate terracing built by the Moors a thousand years ago while enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, valleys and the coast.
With over ten walks of varying length available the Hidden Spain walking holiday is a great way to experience the Mediterranean way-of-life, get a first-hand insight into the countryside, sample the outstanding local cuisine and enjoy some excellent hiking that Hidden Spain has to offer. The diversity of landscapes around the village means that there is always something new just around the corner and we can adjust the walks to suit all abilities.There are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby so you can enjoy the local cuisine, try some tapas and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of rural life in this interesting and picturesque village.